M&M Controversy: Branding, Backlash, and Beyond

M&M’s, the beloved candy brand known for its colourful and endearing mascots, recently found itself in the middle of controversy due to minor changes in the appearance of its Green and Brown M&M characters. These alterations sparked a debate, with conservatives criticizing the adjustments as overly “woke,” while feminists argued that the changes were a poorly executed attempt at inclusivity.

The controversy gained momentum when a petition was created, calling for returning the original designs for the Green and Brown M&M characters. Surprisingly, the petition garnered over 20 thousand signatures and became ammunition for conservative pundits in their anti-Woke” arguments.

In response to the backlash, M&M’s made a significant decision. They withdrew the mascots and replaced them with actress and comedian Maya Rudolph. However, this move was met with widespread derision, leaving M&M’s in a difficult position.

M&M’s journey through this controversy highlights the challenges that brands face in the age of social media and polarized discourse. It also raises questions about the role of mascots and branding in today’s society.

The M&M’s controversy began in January 2022 when the brand made subtle changes to its iconic characters. For instance, the Green M&M’s character traded her go-go boots for sneakers, and other characters’ shoes were also modified. These adjustments were part of M&M’s efforts to modernize and make the characters more inclusive.

In September of the same year, M&M’s introduced Purple, a new female character, as part of its ongoing inclusivity initiative. Additionally, for International Women’s Day, M&M’s temporarily changed its logo to feature Ws instead of Ms, a playful typographical twist.

These changes, aimed at promoting inclusivity and positivity, unexpectedly ignited a firestorm of controversy. Fox News labelled the brand as “woke,” and conservative commentator Tucker Carlson criticized the alterations, particularly Green’s less “sexy” appearance.

The backlash extended to social media and opinion pieces, with some arguing that M&M’s changes were not truly progressive and that the original designs should be reinstated.

M&M’s initially sought to embrace inclusivity and positivity through these character changes. The brand intended to represent a variety of perspectives and backgrounds through its mascots.

However, the unexpected backlash from conservative commentators and online criticism pushed M&M’s into a more political debate than they had anticipated. The brand chose to either back away from the character changes or stand up and defend its inclusivity efforts.

Ultimately, M&M’s decided to step back and withdraw the spokescandies, replacing them with Maya Rudolph. The move aimed to shift the focus away from the characters and the controversy surrounding them.

Maya Rudolph’s involvement was announced, and it was suggested that the decision was part of M&M’s long-term plan rather than a knee-jerk reaction to the controversy. Despite the change, M&M’s assured fans that the original mascots were not going away permanently.

M&M’s decision to put the spokescandies on an “indefinite pause” appears to be a strategic move to allow the controversy to subside. While some speculate that it could be a marketing stunt to generate buzz for an upcoming Super Bowl commercial, experts suggest that not all publicity is positive.

The brand’s handling of the situation highlights the challenges brands face when they unintentionally become embroiled in political debates. In this case, M&M’s found themselves caught between opposing viewpoints.

The future of the spokescandies remains uncertain, but they are not disappearing entirely. M&M’s has hinted that more information about their situation will be revealed in the coming weeks.

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